Braised Wine Cap and Asparagus

Braised Wine Cap and Asparagus

Wine Cap mushrooms have two great culinary attributes: they are colorful and they are crunchy. They are mild tasting mushrooms, and more vegetable-like (think asparagus and cucumber), unlike the rich and woodsy umami flavors we have come to love in Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms. In developing this recipe, we embraced the simplicity of this mushroom and avoided the cloying and even overwhelming effect of pan frying. Instead, we simmered the mushrooms in water infused with aromatic herbs and then lightly dressed them with a compound butter. A little dish of these are sublime; suitable for the most elegant dinner party or spooned over toast for lunch..

⅓ lb (or about 2 c) Wine Cap mushrooms (buttons are best)
2 c water or enough to fill the pan about ½ inch
¼ c dry white wine (optional)
A sprig or two of aromatic herbs, preferably fresh (thyme, bay leaf, rosemary or sage)
Salt to taste (about ¼ tsp per cup water)

Clean the mushrooms, slice the caps if the gills are very exposed. Larger buttons should be sliced in half, length-wise, keeping the stems intact.

Place the mushrooms in a sauce pan and cover with water: about 1/2 inch up the pan. The mushrooms do not have to be fully immersed in the water. Add the aromatics, salt and wine (optional). Cover the pan bring the water to a boil, then reduce the water to a simmer. Set the lid slightly offset to allow the simmering liquid to vent, occasionally stirring the mushrooms.

Once the liquid is reduced to just a thin sauce, spoon the mushrooms onto a warm serving plate and dab with a compound butter for enrichment. You can use any light sauce, but I am very partial to this easy Gorgonzola Butter recipe:

Artisanal Butter Ingredients:
1 small clove of garlic, pounded with a few pinches of sea salt
3 Tbsp softened butter
3 Tbsp room temperature gorgonzola cheese (creamy gorgonzola if you can find it)

Combine all ingredients (add a dab of heavy cream if it needs moistening while mixing). Roll into a log and refrigerate until ready to use.

Butter recipe from "Vegetable Literacy" by D. Madison